Sure I’ll help, I say. What could go wrong?
Our guys are busy, and they need a hand. And who better to relieve them of the misery of traveling from either coast to the middle of the country than me, who lives in striking distance of most of middle America.
So where do they send me first? New Jersey. That’s where.
Specifically Parsippany. I’ve been there before, decades ago, for a class. There’s not much to see. Most of those townships in Jersey don’t have a lot going on. Matter of fact, in that trip long ago one of my classmates and I desperately searched for something other than a bar or pizza place for dinner. We found a Red Lobster a few towns over and . There’s a few reasons that trip is still in my memory banks:
- I nearly wrecked my brand new company van on a turn right to turn left exit, not realizing that’s what I had to do to get were I needed to go.
- As we were sitting at the bar, waiting for a table, the bartender plopped a bag of “Neutral Base Slush Mix” on the counter in preparation for feeding the daiquiri machine.
I’ll never forget the look on the face of the guy next to me as his eyes went from his daiquiri drink to the Neutral Base Slush Mix bag and back. I’ll also never forget telling my dinner companion that sitting at the bar waiting for a seat was a bad sign. He said something like “This is a good place, huh?” after sizing up the crowd. I said, no, It wasn’t. and the fact it’s standing room only on a Wednesday night tells me there’s nowhere else around that’s any good. He was Canadian and thus didn’t know any better.
But I digress. Back to the trip. Nothing special about the hotel. Fairview Marriott was cheap, nice, and close to where I needed to be. Avis hooked me up with a Kia of which I forget the name. It was Camry size. Decent car.
But the flight sucked. It was United, one of the airlines I fly only if there is zero alternative. And since the travel agency found this flight at half the cost I had to take it. And it sucked. Did I say that? I don’t think I can say that enough. It left late. It was overbooked some 13 seats. There was a long line of the wretched trying to get aboard.
It’s nearly impossible to navigate around these New Jersey townships. The roads are way smaller than they should be, poorly marked, and poorly connected. The traffic in the morning was astonishing, most of it coming from a choke point. Midway to my destination, it went to a single lane either way. One school bus was all it took to wreck my commute. Seriously, I was maybe three miles from my site, and it was a good twenty minutes to a half hour to get there.
I got lost every day coming back. I couldn’t understand why Google would route me on the highway. Why couldn’t I go back the way I came? The answer? you can’t get there from here, that’s why. Going southbound is different than north. The road splits, and your choice is the highway, or a different road altogether. And the larger roads have that weird turn right, loop to the light to cross way of turning left. Except when you least suspect it, then for some reason there’s a left lane (And you are in the right hand one, expecting the loop drill.
I didn’t find one place to eat that I didn’t think there was, or should have been, a Kitchen Nightmare episode about. And what’s up with the beer? You have to go to a liquor store, of which there was one in a five mile radius. I drove by it three times, such an out of the way hole in the wall it was.
End of the week, I was in flee mode, big time. So I booked back to Newark airport, elbowed my way to the ticket counter, and wouldn’t you know, I was screwed by United again. Flight canceled, I tucked into the scrum at security. Newark airport is up there with Heathrow, competing for the seventh circle of hell. It was ass-and-elbows crowded. Utter pandemonium getting through security. Once in, I wandered the airport looking for a place to hang for what would be a five hour wait. In my terminal, the restaurants were replaced by a trendy looking bar in the middle of the concourse. It made navigating the place tough, as crowded as it was. But there was but one shop in town, that one.
Luckily, the flight where I was placed on left on time. More or less.
And next to me, in the window seat? A princess. I’ve never seen such a thing in all my years of air travel.
She wanted a drink before they got around to serving. Then when they did –
Oh, can I have a ginger ale. And some water. Then proceeded to complain to me that the stewardess had and attitude towards her. Really? Did she not get you everything you asked? Wow.
First off, this isn’t the golden days of aviation. You don’t even get so much as a bag of peanuts without popping a card. Second, The stewardesses aren’t paid to take your crap. Now, I can get pretty snarky when I’m dealt bad service. But I rarely, if ever, bother the stewardesses, no matter how atrocious they are. I figure it’s part of the package and battling them is a losing effort. I’ve since learned what the younger ones (like that one was) makes for a living. It isn’t even enough to call it peanuts. The old ones, full of guile as they can be, are well paid from years in the union. The new ones get diddly squat.
So I have a heart these days for stewardesses. It’s not their circus.
And United is a circus I’ll avoid at all costs.